Blue Hour: Poems

Carolyn Forché

The late Elizabeth Bishop supposedly said that those who read poetry ought to be prepared to work at it. Carolyn Forché’s new collection contains several poems that require effort to read—and she’s included endnotes to help. Some, including the title poem, take the infancy of Forché’s son as a springboard to explore memory’s place in the poet’s imagination, a subject engaged in her 1994 collection, The Angel of History. Her language is precise, her images concrete, and her use of longer lines in many of the poems produces a rhythmic pattern that has the effect of a series of incantations. This effect is most pronounced in the long final poem, “On Earth,” an abecedary—stanzas are arranged in alphabetical order—that evokes the journey of the human spirit through life to its inevitable end.